WTUL New Orleans

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Adrian (violinist)

Earlier this March, I had the great opportunity to sit down with Adrian, Max, and Nick from New Thousand, an electrifying group meshing the genres of EDM-alternative trap music using an electric violin, keyboard, and synths/drums. 


After their thrilling performance at day one of BUKU Music + Art Project, Adrian (violin), Max (keyboard), Nick (percussion) and I had a chance to speak about their first time playing on the BUKU main stage, their unique instrumental style, and their upcoming music. 


This is your first time performing at BUKU, how do you feel right now?

[Adrian] It feels great!


Your performance was just so energizing! I’ve never really seen that onstage before.

[Adrian] Oh man yeah! This is the biggest stage that we’ve played on by quite a bit. We actually have sort of played BUKU before, we’ve street performed outside of the Ballroom stage the past few years and it’s from the reputation we got through that that we got invited to play on the main stage. It’s just like ‘Oh my God, we’re on the main stage at BUKU fest.' It’s wild! It’s totally wild! I love being able to look out and see people having a good time. It’s a bit of a different context for me because with street performing I have people about 5 feet away from me like most of the time, so this is a lot different but it’s totally exhilarating to me and adds to the whole experience. 

How did you guys get together and develop your sound? You guys definitely have one of the more unique sounds I've heard.

[Adrian] Well I've been at this for about seven years with a bunch of different backing bands and people accompanying me, and I was like I want to do more of an electronic thing. But about two and a half years ago, I called two friends of mine who live back in Ohio (I’m from Columbus, Max is from Columbus) and I called Max and another friend of ours, and I was like, “Hey we should all start a band, you guys should come down to New Orleans, we can all live together and do this thing.” So at the beginning of 2016, we all moved down here and started to street perform and quickly developed a sound similar to what you’re hearing now. We did that for about two years. Our previous drummer left the group several months ago, and then we found Nick – who is just phenomenal – actually, this is his first show as an official member of the band. So that’s kinda how we got together. It was just sort of a trial and error – we’d just play music on the street, people would stop and watch, we’d find ‘Oh this is what people like, this is what’s good’ and we’d keep doing that. We kept making music based around what brings crowds, which is basically how we became what we are.”


How much of your songs are improvised and how do you coordinate styles while playing? From my background as a jazz guitarist I’ve learned some of the foundations of improvisation from a jazz perspective – are any of you jazz trained?

[Adrian] I feel like any genre of music will have improvisation, and it just happens that jazz is one where that’s a big thing. None of us have a jazz background actually. I have a classical background.

[Max] I also have mostly a classical background

[Adrian] And Nick has a metal and funk background. So yeah (laughs) we don’t really know what’s going to happen next. It’s sort of a familiarity thing like we’ve played enough times, especially me and Max, to know the feelings of songs and stuff and what we would typically do. You might hear an improvised song and it might sound a lot like another improvised song we’ve done, but everything is happening on the spot.


Max, what’s your setup with the keyboard and MIDI for the shows? How do you know which beats/sounds you want to play?

[Max] We kind of know what the overall genre is. I listen to a lot of hip-hop and we’ll pick some sounds and they’ll say ‘Oh I like that’ and I think you really have to paint with a broad brush when choosing the sounds. I could play anything, so I try and see what sounds I could use for a build-up or a breakdown, or a drop or something. It’s like an intersection between how specific you want something to sound but also how limited it is for improvisation. I have to choose the sounds kind of broadly and you just work with what you got when you’re playing. 


For your album Soundmind, how did you decide which songs went on the album and which didn't?

[Max] Soundmind we made about two and a half years ago. We started out, Adrian called us up and said ‘Hey I think we should make an album together,” and Alex and I had a computer music background. Alex would make most of the track and we’d put stuff on top of that. It was really just a compilation of the songs we had at that point.

[Adrian] Yeah, we made Soundmind before we really ever played together. The sound of New Thousand is really nothing at all like Soundmind. We didn’t really know what we’d sound like, so we were just sitting in front of a computer up in Ohio for like two months writing music, but we ended up with a sound that really sounds quite a bit different. There are still some similarities but it’s still pretty different. We kind of ended up in a more EDM-Future Bass sort of vibe than what was going on with that album.   


Do you like the direction you guys are going in now?

[Adrian] Oh yeah! I like what we’re doing a lot. It’s high-energy, it’s fun, and it’s complex enough to be interesting but simple enough to dance to it and vibe to it. It’s not like pretentious music at all, which I think makes it accessible.


Nick, what’s your set up for making beats and everything? I saw there’s a synth pad up there?

[Nick] I run everything through Ableton Live with all my own samples. Everything, even the acoustic drums, has triggers on them so I can select the samples, and then I have different kits with other samples. So depending on the vibe I can curate my sounds to give it a little bit of a different energy. Basically, I build all the tracks and then it’s like having a real drum kit type of performance to it which is personally more energizing for me. Essentially, I hear what they play and the synth sounds and just try to find drum samples and different things that fit well on a broad spectrum with what we do and what we play.    


I noticed a lot of drops throughout your performance – how do you guys coordinate those together? I’m familiar with the sort of ‘musician’s feeling’ when one plays with a group, but is there anything you guys do specifically with each other to signal a drop or change in pace?

[Adrian] I think through street performing and in rehearsals, we work on it a little bit with the looks and whatever. But it’s really a feeling, at least I feel for us. We just kind of know when we move through the pieces, or I’ll just start with a four-clap and they just know that we’re going in that direction. It’s really fun because it ends up working out really nice.


I know you guys are primarily an instrumental group, but would you consider adding lyrics in the future?

[Adrian] Perhaps! We have played extensively with a rapper down here, Ray Wimley, who will be performing on the festival grounds later tonight. When he’ll perform with us, he’ll do a mix of freestyle rap, combined with prewritten stuff that he’s done, combined with a rowdy hype-man vibe by getting the crowd dancing, getting everyone going, and that kind of stuff. I would say that adding lyrics is something that we’re open to but it's not in the immediate plans since Nick just joined the band officially pretty recently. The immediate goals are becoming fully integrated as a three-piece before we add to that.  


Do you think you guys will release a few songs or an album in the near future?

[Adrian] Oh yeah! Now that we have a band again there’s going to be singles, EPs, full lengths, tours, the whole sha-bang! Definitely more to come this year.


Where do you guys hope the music industry will go moving forward?

[Adrian] I think there’s this trend in electronic music, due to a lot of it being created on a computer, where the performative nature and the actual playing the music in front of you is lost when it’s just DJ after DJ after DJ. And the music that they do is amazing—

[Nick] –Yeah you just don’t see all the work that goes into it.

[Adrian] Exactly. The live performance is pressing play and pretending you’re moving the knobs and whatever. I think what we’re doing is like the electronic DJ sound but presented sort of as if we were a rock band or something like that. I would love to see more bands that are completely playing live and not relying on samples and pre-triggered stuff. I think that would make electronic music a lot more exciting.

[Nick] I know some DJs and producers who do a lot of mixing live but there’s so many where you go to the big festivals on the main stage and you just see one fader up the whole time and they’re just jumping around. I would like to see it go a little more into live nature or actually have a lot more working DJs and working bands who are really making this music on the fly; like they have this song and they’re playing it live. I think some of the imperfections are sometimes the greatest things in music.

[Max] I’m interested to know what types of musical styles will blend in the future. Like I’ve been learning these Japanese scales and vibin’ to music is so cool. I’m interested to know where the production will go next, whether it’s rap beats or electronic music – just what will come next melodically and even rhythmically too.


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